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The villain’s journey

Caricature of a villain (image from Wikipedia)I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. It has been a while since I finished a novel, and I need to get another book going. I have a story in mind, but I have to approach it differently from the other novels I’ve written. This time, I’m focusing on the villain’s journey.

The story started out as a political satire set to a Wizard of Oz-style quest. I have a hero in mind and the companions who will join her on the adventure. But to complete the plot, I need to know who her opponent is and the negative beliefs he embodies. These will determine what obstacles he throws her way and what tactics he uses to try to defeat her. In response, the hero must develop the positive traits she and her friends need to overcome him.

But I don’t want this to be simply a good-versus-evil tale. Nor do I want to create some tragic “he’s not bad, he’s just misunderstood” backstory. I want the villain to be an evil character, but an evil that’s somewhat tempting and attractive. Think Hannibal Lecter, Alex DeLarge, and Patrick Bateman — characters who perform the worst acts of villainy, but have an alluring charm and enviable style. They do things we secretly wish we could do, from enjoying Beethoven’s symphonies to slaying those who annoy us. On occasion, they leave us begrudgingly admitting that they are right.

My hero must not only defeat this evil, she must defeat the parts of us that can be seduced by it.

This is why the villain’s journey is important for me to develop. What values do we find both attractive and repulsive? How and why did the villain come to embrace those values? What does the villain want to do? How important is it for him to do it, and how does it reflect his values? Why does she need to stop him? Why does he want to fight her besides just keeping her from foiling his plans? How do his strategies change and intensify in the course of the conflict? How do his negative values contribute to his victories and ultimate defeat?

I have a lot of work to do. But this is the fun of fiction writing, creating engaging worlds with fascinating villains and bold heroes to challenge them.

Want to see my notes on the story’s villain and plot? Click this link.


Also published on Medium.